Cyclone Rake Blog: December 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016

New Year’s Resolutions for Yard Equipment

      It’s the start of a new year, and the middle of winter, meaning lawn care may seem far from your mind. But it’s never too soon to make sure your lawn and garden tools and supplies are ready to go for spring - and resolving to keep your yard tools well-maintained is a New Year’s resolution that may prove possible to keep. Start this year out right, with some time in your garage, storage shed or barn, making sure maintenance is up-to-date for all the tools you’ll need this spring – or finishing routine maintenance that may have slipped by before the holidays.
            Pay special attention to all the engines in your care: lawnmowers, lawn tractors,
trimmers and weedeaters, and other engine-powered machines, such as the Cyclone SuperHauler. Late fall and winter is a good time for replacing spark plugs and changing oil, if you forgot that task after the lawn care season. Use fluids according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, always storing fluids in approved containers and disposing used oil properly. Inspect and clean or replace filters as needed. Be sure mower decks are clean and blades are sharp, ready for the first grass cutting in the spring. If you send your lawn tractor to a mechanic for an annual tune-up, make that appointment now and beat the spring rush.
            Then, take time to inspect and maintain the moving parts on your tools – including tools without an engine. Many machines, from lawnmowers to lawn shears, have moving parts needing only an occasional application of grease or oil. Apply lubricants as needed, being sure to follow the guidelines in owner’s manuals. If you forgot to give a final fall cleaning for lawn equipment in storage, like the Cyclone Rake and other tools, take some time to be sure they are cleaned and stored properly. Inspect all the tires and wheels on your tools for excessive or unusual wear, which may signal a need for replacement or additional maintenance. It’s not too late to apply a coat of linseed oil to condition and preserve wooden tool handles, in case you overlooked that task in the fall.

            Yard care supplies also include things without moving parts, like fertilizer and seed and other soil amendments. Always store fertilizers and seeds in a dry location; keep grass seed left from last year in a cool place, like a basement, where the seed will not freeze. And use these winter months to take stock of your supplies, making a list for supplies needed closer to spring. That will help you meet the aim of your New Year’s resolution for maintaining lawn equipment and supplies: a truly beautiful, healthy lawn and garden.

Friday, December 23, 2016

What to Do with All the Snow?

            A snowy landscape creates a seasonal wonderland around in your yard and woods. Snow in your driveway, however, begs for removal. Here are some ways you and your family can stay active this winter while putting that snow to good use, as well as how to avoid snow-related lawn headaches in the spring.
            Before you break out the shovel, snow blower or tractor, consider your kids. They are likely just itching to play in some snow, and the snow in your driveway may be the perfect raw material for building the family of snowmen or the stockade of snow forts. Rolling up snowballs for building snowmen, by using snow from the driveway, can also keep the yard covered with snow. This both looks nice and can help insulate your grass and plants when temperatures take the next arctic plunge.

            Your biggest challenge may be keeping the kids from suspecting that they’re really part of your Driveway Cleanup Operation. So be sure to stay out there, with your shovel or snow blower, aiding their efforts to harvest snow from the driveway. This will keep up morale and keep your whole family staying active in the winter outdoors. It may also help you keep big piles of snow from being deposited in the middle of the yard. Slow-melting snow piles in the lawn can promote turf diseases, like snow mold, in the spring. Also keep this in mind if sledding starts to happen in the middle of your yard, as heavily-packed snow can bring similar spring challenges.

            Of course, there are always tradeoffs: What’s a little snow mold in the spring, really, when the kids are having so much fun outside? If you are looking to preserve certain parts of the yard, suggest the youngsters place their snow forts and other winter building projects in the woods, where grass conditions may not be of such great concern. And don’t forget to help them deposit snow on the fort, or at the building site. That may also keep away later accusations that they have actually been part of your driveway cleanup plans (Maybe).

Friday, December 16, 2016

Decking the Halls for December

A seasonal song calls for decking the halls, for ‘tis the season to be jolly. But in the midst of a traditionally busy season in homes and workplaces, decorating your home might create less than jolliness. Here are some possible helps, whether you’re setting up a last minute Christmas tree, preparing for Hanukkah gatherings or accenting décor for Kwanzaa.
            Don’t be daunted by the number of shopping days left; there’s still plenty of time to put up a Christmas tree. A few stalwart celebrants even practice the historic tradition of trimming the tree on Christmas Eve! Consider a trip to a local Christmas tree farm, if you are still in the market for a natural Christmas tree, to bring home a fresh tree that can be left up for a while. Freshness can be detected in pre-cut trees by giving them a good shaking; if lots of green needles start flying, the tree’s freshness may be suspect.
            Hosting Hanukkah gatherings will bring plenty of people to your home. If you haven’t yet stocked the pantry for the meal, be sure you soon acquire any ingredients you know you’ll need but don’t always keep on hand. For decorating, simple accents can highlight Hanukkah themes and plenty of home décor items are available for purchase. But consider taking some time to create your own front door treatment and other accents, using ideas gleaned from social media outlets. A quick look at Pinterest showed plenty of distinctive Hanukkah decorations that are also simple enough for children to help craft, so consider these kinds of ideas to get youngsters involved before lights, games and gifts.

            Traditional Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrations involve candle lighting. If this is the first year you’ll host a gathering, be sure to think through that part of the evening with all the necessary luminary supplies. For holiday menus, different traditions may observe different preferences. If you’re thinking this is the year to offer some new holiday fare, be sure to consider any of your guest’s special dietary considerations, whether seasonal or otherwise.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Decorating for December

Holiday decorating can be one of the homeowner’s true dilemmas. How much is too much? How much is too little? Should I install outdoor lights, and if I do, how can I avoid making my house look tacky? What if I like tacky? What about holiday yard ornaments? How much should I spend on this endeavor? Ah, the joys of holiday decorating and home ownership. Not to worry; there are some proven practices that can help you avoid being labeled the neighborhood Grinch by having an unadorned home, while also avoiding seasonal kitsch.
            First off, the matter of lights. While strings of energy-saving LED exterior lights can greatly reduce the annual energy cost of illuminating your home, most homes are not illuminated most attractively by stringing miles of lights around every door, window and eave! Take a good look at your home from the front, or wherever your holiday guests will be coming in from the cold, and think about what features could be best accented by lights. Some garden centers may even offer free consultations with professional designers on such matters of lawn and yardscape design.
            If you do decide to hang lights, or even more lights, there are many gadgets that make the task easier and less invasive to your structure. You might check with a friend or
neighbor, one whose home already features exterior holiday lighting, about which hangers work best. Your best option may even be to avoid exterior lights entirely; single candles in windows create a very welcoming holiday glow.
            Then there is the matter of lawn ornamentation. If your landscaping already includes garden sculptures and other ornaments, your best option might be a bit of additional adornment. A festive bow, or even lights, can add a seasonal welcome and whimsy. As for those holiday lawn ornaments and whimsical holiday yard shows: Follow your own tastes, budget safety guidelines and any applicable neighborhood regulations. Lights certainly go with the season, and there are all kinds of ways to make your home bring a smile and sense of joy to your guests and passersby.
            Whether or not you decide to go for lighting or ornaments, do consider dressing up your front door or entryway with a seasonal wreath or other accents. It’s the first thing your guests will notice as they come into your home – and a really great wreath can be the first word of “Welcome” to your holiday guests.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Getting Your Yard Ready for Winter

The weeks leading up to New Year’s Day may seem a time to stay busy in other places besides your yard. But don’t miss the chance to take time outdoors and finish getting your yard ready for winter. We like to think of winter yard prep as “Three M’s” –  moisture, mulch and maintenance.
            The first M is moisture, especially important for evergreens, as well as new plantings that may have been installed in fall. Consider giving your evergreen trees and shrubs a good watering before the ground freezes, especially if rainfall has recently been less than one inch per week. If you’re in an area where winter freezing is less severe, keep an extra close eye on evergreens through the winter. Some species could potentially benefit from additional winter watering, especially younger trees and plants.
            Second: make sure you mulch. A layer of mulch after soaking fall rains, or a final fall watering, can help the ground retain moisture. Perhaps more important, mulch insulates the ground from temperature swings. Thawing and freezing causes the ground to heave, which can be hard on plant roots and overall plant health. A two- to six-inch layer of shredded leaves or similar mulch material can help guard your ground, protecting your plant from winter heaving. When it comes to winter mulching, not all plants are created equal; some are tender, some are hardy.  Follow garden guides or seek advice from your local garden center or Master Gardener program to make sure your mulch layer is the proper thickness.
            Finally, pay attention to our catchall “M,” maintenance. Guard young trees and woody perennials from wildlife damage with tree guards or screens. Take a good look at deciduous trees, now that leaves have fallen, to see where you’ll need extra pruning in the spring. Consider applying plant wrap to young evergreen trunks, especially those with southern exposure, to prevent sun scald – a common winter malady.
            Winter yard prep even goes beyond the plants, to your utilities. Don’t forget to drain and stow hoses, clean and store garden tools, oil wooden handles with linseed oil, and install winter faucet covers on outdoor faucets. That way you’ll be able to keep your equipment in top shape, ready to bring out next spring.